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A History of The Middle
New River Settlements
and Contiguous Territory.

By David E. Johnston (1906).


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Chapter III.  1766 - 1774 (Part 1).


Formation Botetourt County from Augusta in 1769---Cooks, Keeneys and others on Indian Creek and the Greenbrier---Building Forts---Cooks on Indian Creek and Keeneys at Keeney's Knobs---Fort at Lewisburg built---John and Richard Chapman and McKensy settle at mouth of Walker's Creek---Snidows, Lybrooks and Chapmans build fort at the Horse Shoe---Absalom Looney from Looney's Creek explores upper Bluestone waters---Other settlers on the head of Clinch---John McNeil from the Virginia Valley locates at Little Levels---Accompanies General Lewis to the battle of Point Pleasant---Captain James Moore, Samuel Ferguson, the Peerys and others in the battle of the Alamance May 16th, 1771---In 1772 Evan Shelby at King's Meadows, and John Sevier from the Valley, on the Nolichucky---Refugees from the Alamance, from Fairfax County, Virginia, on the Watauga---Over mountain men---Back water men--Peace men---Fincastle County created and courts held at Lead Mines---Daniel Boone, family and party from the Yadkin---Squire Boone a Baptist minister, with the party---On their way to Kentucky are attacked by Indians and party scattered---Daniel and Squire winter near Castleswoods--- Dunmore's War begins in the Spring of 1774---Daniel Boone in command of the frontier---Captain William Russell's company from the Clinch---Reece and Moses Bowen with Russell---Evan Shelby, his son Isaac and John Sevier also lead a company---Sevier from North Carolina but supposes he lives in Virginia---Governor Dunmore raises an army and commands northern division---General Andrew Lewis the southern division---March to the mouth of the Kanawha and battle of Point Pleasant---August 7th, 1774, Indians attack the Lybrooks and Snidows at Sinking Creek---Harman's fort---Shannons settle at Poplar Hill, 1774---Grant of Clover Bottom to Mitchell Clay.

Up to and including the year of 1769 the territory covering the New River Valley and the section of the country West thereof, was within the county of Augusta, but in November of that year a county called Botetourt was created, the act to be in effect January 31st, 1769.

The following are the boundary lines of the county of Botetourt as given in the Act: "That from and after the 31st day of January next ensuing, the said parish and county of Augusta be divided into two counties and parishes by a line beginning at the Blue Ridge, running north 55 deg. West to the confluence of Mary's Creek (or of South River) with the North branch of the James River; thence, up the same to the South of Kerr's Creek (Carr's Creek) thence, up said creek to the mountain; thence, North 45 deg. West as far as the courts of the two counties shall extend it.

By reference to the map of Virginia it will be seen that a line 45 deg. West extended from the mountain at the head of Kerr's Creek will reach the Ohio river at some point not far from the present city of Wheeling, and will cover largely that vast territory which had formerly belonged to Augusta County.

Between the years of 1769 and 1774, settlements had been made by the Cooks from the Virginia Valley on Indian Creek (one of their number, John, being killed by the Indians),the Woods on Rich Creek, the Grahams on the Greenbrier, and others near Keeney's Knobs.  Cook's Fort was on Indian Creek about three miles from New River, Wood's fort on Rich Creek on a farm recently owned by the family of John Karnes, and about 4 miles East of the present village of Peterstown in the County of Monroe.  The Keeneys built Keeney's fort near Keeney's Knobs.  The Snidows, Lybrooks, Chapmans and McKensey built Snidow's fort at the upper end of the Horseshoe farm on New River, in what is now Giles County.  The Hatfields built Hatfield's fort on Big Stony Creek in the now county of Giles on the farm belonging to the late David J. L. Snidow.  The fort at Lewisburg was built in 1770.  The Bargers built Barger's fort on Tom's Creek in the now County of Montgomery.  Colonel Andrew Donnally built Donnally's fort.    Colonel John Stuart built Fort Spring, and Captain Jarrett the Wolf Creek fort, the three last named on the Greenbrier waters.

In 1771 came John Chapman, Richard his brother, and their brother-in-law Moredock O. McKensey with their families from Culpepper County, Virginia, and located at the mouth of Walker's Creek on the New River.  The Chapmans and McKensey, the latter a Scotsman, who had married Jemima, the only sister of the Chapmans, left their Culpepper home in November, 1768, crossed the Blue Ridge into the Valley of Virginia, and remained for more than two years on the Shenandoah (then called the Sherando) River, and at some time in the year of 1771 fell in with the emigrant bands making their way further West, and even across the Alleghanies.  John Chapman erected his cabin on the Northwest side of Walker's Creek at the base of the hill and near the bank of the creek.  Richard Chapman and McKensey built on the river bottom above the mouth of the creek.

An adventurer by the name of Absalom Looney in 1771 left his home on Looney's Creek, now in the Rockbridge country, and came over the Alleghanies and explored the upper Bluestone country, particularly a beautiful valley now in Tazewell County, Virginia, and which in part bears the name of its discoverer, being called "Abb's Valley."    Looney remained in this valley and adjacent territory for two or three years, and had for his refuge and hiding place from the savages and wild beasts a cave or rather an opening in the limestone rocks, for it was not deep under ground.  This hiding place was pointed out to the author by William T. Moore, Esq., whose grandfather settled nearby in 1777.  The cave referred to is a few yards south of the spot whereon now stands Moore's Memorial Methodist Church.  On Looney's return to his home he gave such glowing description of this valley that one of his neighbors, Captain James Moore, was induced to make a journey to see it.  He came in 1776 or 1777 alone, from his home with no companions nor weapons, save his rifle gun, tomahawk and butcher knife, the hunter's usual weapons of offense and defense.  Looney had furnished him such a description of the valley as to enable him to find the way without difficulty.    Further description of Captain Moore's journey and settlement in this valley, and the destruction of his family by Indians will be related in the Chapter on the history of Tazewell County.

In 1773 John McNeil from the lower Virginia Valley, settled in the Little Levels on the waters of the Greenbrier, now in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.  McNeil accompanied General Lewis' army to the battle of Point Pleasant, and was a participant therein.

John Sevier of French extraction, who established and gave name to the town of New Market in the Valley of Virginia, and kept a store in that town, having made the acquaintance of Evan Shelby of King's Meadows, now Bristol, Tennessee- Virginia, made in 1772 a visit to Shelby, and went with him to the waters of the Watauga, finding there among  the settlers persons who had fought in the battle of the Alamance, and some from the County of Fairfax, Virginia.  These people later, together with settlers on the Holstein, were called by some, Backwater men, Over mountain men, and Peace men, as some of them at least opposed the war with Great Britain.  But when the tug of war did come, they were almost without exception found on the American side, and many of them served in the patriot army.  Sevier made up his mind to locate in this section, and accordingly did, fixing his residence upon the Nolichuckey, and he was afterwards known as, and called "Nolichuckey Jack."  He was a brave, courageous and intelligent man, and figured extensively in the border wars, and in the formation of the State of Franklin, of which he was the Governor four years; and was afterwards Governor of the State of Tennessee for a number of years.

Owing to the remote settlements west of the Alleghanies and along the New River waters and farther to the west, and the difficulties the inhabitants had of reaching the courts held at Fincastle in Botetourt County, the inhabitants petitioned the Legislature of Virginia for the formation of a new county, the prayer of which petition was granted in February, 1772.  The county of Fincastle was created out of Botetourt; with the following boundary lines as given in the act creating same.

"That from and after the first day of December next, the said county of Botetourt shall be divided into two distinct Counties, that is to say all that part of said county within a line to run up the east side of New River to the south of  Culbertson's Creek, thence, a direct line to the Catawba road, where it crosses the dividing ridge between the north of the Roanoke and the waters of New River; thence, with the top of the ridge to the Bent, where it turns eastwardly; thence, a south course to the top of Blue Ridge mountains, shall be established as one distinct county and called and known by the name of Fincastle; and that the other part thereof, which lies to the east and north east of the said line, shall be one distinct county and retain the name of Botetourt.

Daniel Boone from the Yadkin River, North Carolina, visited the Holstein settlements in 1760 and again in 1773, and engaged in hunting along the waters of the Tennessee, performing his usual feat of "Cilling a bar," and proclaiming the fact by inscribing it on a beech tree.  Several trees are said to have been found with similar inscriptions.  A brief sketch of the life of Boone is given by Dr. John P. Hale, in the Trans Alleghany Pioneers.  It may be well to add, however, that in the fall of 1773 the Boones, with five other families set out from their home on the Yadkin to go to Kentucky, and were joined in Powell's Valley by William Bryan, their brother-in-law, and forty other people.  That while this body of emigrants was leisurely traveling through the Valley, a small company under James Boone, Daniel's eldest son, left the main body and went to the home of William Russell to procure provisions, and on the 9th of October James Boone and his company, among the number being Russell's son, Henry, and two slaves, encamped a few miles in the rear of the main body.  At this point they were the next day waylaid by a small party of Shawnee and Cherokee Indians, who were supposed to be at peace with the white settlers.  On the morning of the 10th James Boone and his entire company were captured, and after cruel torture were slaughtered.  After this occurrence Daniel Boone's company broke up and returned to the settlements, and Daniel and his family returned to the home of William Russell near Castleswoods on Clinch river, and spent the winter of 1773-1774 in that neighborhood.   "Summers' His. South West Va."  In addition to these statements made by Summers, it may be added upon well authenticated testimony that Squire Boone, a brother of Daniel, with his family were with this party of emigrants and remained over the same winter in the neighborhood of William Russell, and his brother Daniel and his family.   Squire Boone was a Missionary Baptist minister, and during his stay at or near Castles-woods, planted the germ from which sprang Castle's-woods Baptist church which exists to this day.   Again it is known that Squire Boone married the first white couple that were married in Kentucky.

With the opening of the Spring of 1774 the Indians began their depredations upon the border, and Governor Dunmore began the raising and mobilizing of a Virginian army to punish the savages.  The army was divided into two divisions, the northern division was commanded by Dunmore himself, the southern division commanded by Brg. General Andrew Lewis, and its appointed place of rendezvous was at Camp Union (now Lewisburg, West Virginia).  To this southern division belonged Colonel William Christian's regiment of Fincastle men, to which was attached a company from the lower Clinch commanded by Captain William Russell, which in August, 1774, marched for the place of rendezvous, joining en route on New River the regiment to which it belonged.  It is believed that the line of march of Russell's company was up the Clinch and down the East river, passing the site of the present city of Bluefield, West Virginia.  In Russell's Company were Reece Bowen, Moses Bowen, the latter dying from small pox on the expedition, and others from their neighborhood in the Cove, in the now County of Tazewell.  Daniel Boone was left in command of Russell's fort and the border in the absence of Russell and his men.    At this time Reece Bowen had a fort at Maiden Spring, which was located on the farm of Mr. Reece Bowen, a great grand son of the Reece Bowen, first above mentioned.   In the absence of Captain Russell and his company, the neighbors of Reece Bowen had gathered in his fort, they were principally, if not altogether, women and children.   Mrs. Bowen went out in search of her cows, and in a marsh she discovered Indian signs, immediately returned to the fort, and dressed up in male attire a negro woman, gave her a rifle gun, and caused her to walk to and fro in front of the door or gate to the fort.  The ruse succeeded, and the fort was not attacked.

Between the years of 1765 and the Spring of 1774 there had been peace along the border between the whites and the Indians.  A difference of opinion exists as to the causes which led to Dunmore's War.  Some have asserted that it had its origin in the murder of some Indians on the Ohio river both above and below Wheeling in the Spring of the latter mentioned year.  Others suppose it to have been produced by the instigation of the British emissaries and the influence of Canadian traders.  It is certain, however, that numerous outrages were committed upon the Indians by the whites, and the war was the natural outgrowth of the strained relations which had long existed between the Savages and the white colonists in their midst.  Also immediately after the perpetration of the outrages, Indians in numerous bands and marauding parties attacked the border settlements and bloodshed and murder were the results.



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